SCOTT: Factoring in the injuries in the SEC

By now, the average SEC fan has read the papers and perused the Internet for the latest news on injuries and other fallout from preseason practice. But what does it all mean?

Take a look at some of the more significant news items from the past month and their possible meaning:




At Alabama, the arrests of cornerback Simeon Castille, tailback Roy Upchurch and defensive lineman Brandon Fanney have yet to produce any announced consequences, so it remains to be seen if they will miss any game time. Upchurch and Fanney won't be missed, but the Tide needs Castille to be an All-SEC player. He's not likely to miss any more than one game, and it won't matter if he misses the opener against Western Carolina.




At Arkansas, the knee injury senior defensive end Marcus Harrison suffered in the spring was supposed to keep him out of the season opener and possibly 2-3 more games. Then he worked hard to come back and appeared to be well on his way to starting Saturday's opener against Troy – until he was arrested late Friday night on a felony drug charge and several misdemeanors.


Harrison will now be suspended indefinitely, leaving an already depleted defensive line with another big hole. The Arkansas coaches like his replacement, senior Chris Wade, but the former JUCO transfer still has a lot to prove. It doesn't help that junior end Antwain Robinson is still in the doghouse after an offseason arrest and some questionable work habits during the preseason.


Arkansas' best receiver, senior Marcus Monk, is out for several more weeks following knee surgery, and the Razorbacks don't have any other proven receivers ready to step up in his absence. Combine those problems with injuries to starting sophomore cornerback Jerrell Norton and freshman backup quarterback Nathan Dick and the Razorbacks enter the season with some real concerns.




At Tennessee, the timing of sophomore tailback LaMarcus Coker's return to the team following an indefinite suspension looks awfully convenient and has to make Fulmer's critics wonder if he is serious about team discipline after promising to make changes following a number of incidents in 2004-05.


"This is it," Fulmer said regarding Coker's return. "We've kind of drawn a line in the sand now."


Coker was suspended on Aug. 6 for a "medical situation," which led to all sorts of speculation about failed drug tests and other sordid issues. Fulmer said Coker "has fulfilled his obligations" to return to the team and will not play Saturday at No. 12 Cal. Instead, he will attempt to get ready for the Southern Miss game on Sept. 8.


The Vols need Coker to revive last year's ailing running game. Junior Arian Foster and sophomore Montario Hardesty are capable backs, but Coker is the one most likely to create big plays.


"He's a dynamic guy with that ball in his arm, and I would definitely like to have him back there," running backs coach Trooper Taylor said. "He's proven. You've seen him do it in the big games."




At South Carolina, quarterback Blake Mitchell was one of three players suspended for Saturday's opener against mighty Louisiana-Lafayette.

Considering that he was suspended and then lost his starting job last season, and the fact that he's a senior, you'd think Mitchell would know better than to miss summer school classes and get suspended again. Then again, this isn't such a bad thing for the Gamecocks because it allows redshirt freshman Chris Smelley to start and gain some game experience.


With Mitchell always one more bad decision away from another suspension, the Gamecocks need to get Smelley on the field and they'll survive ULL without Mitchell.


What really hurts the Gamecocks is the loss of safety Emanuel Cook, who was arrested last week on a gun charge and suspended from the university. Cook's lawyer said neither the gun nor the car it was found in belong to Cook, but it may take awhile before the case is sorted out. That's bad news for the Gamecocks, who play at Georgia and LSU in the first month of the season.


"He's one of our best players, no question, and one of our best guys," coach Steve Spurrier said.




At Ole Miss, the Rebels will have a difficult time coming anywhere close to replacing Butkus Award winner Patrick Willis at middle linebacker, but they took a step in the right direction last week when their top recruit, Chris Strong, was ruled eligible by the NCAA's Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse.


Strong has been impressive in preseason practice and is expected to see considerable playing time when Ole Miss opens against Memphis on Saturday. Ole Miss insiders say it's just a matter of time before he takes over the starting job.




Richard Scott is a Birmingham-based sports writer, author and featured columnist for Tiger Rag. Reach him at

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